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Is “Work-From-Home” a Viable Contingency Plan for Disruptions?
Disruptions and disasters can affect businesses of all sizes. In many cases, these incidents don’t prevent long-term access to your locations, but when it does, what’s your plan?
For many, a work-from-home option for critical functions may see like the best, or at least easiest, solution. Some of your employees may already work from home and others likely have mobile technologies that would make it possible.
But during a disruptive incident, is a work-from-home contingency actually the best strategy for your business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plans?
Here are some roadblocks that could prevent your work-from-home strategy from working as smoothly as you anticipate:
5 Roadblocks That Can Derail “Work-From-Home” Business Continuity Plans
Because we live in an “always on” society, it’s easy to think your employees have access to devices at home that would enable them to connect with you remotely. But that’s not always the case.
Even if you provide your staff with laptops, tablets, or mobile phones, you can’t be 100% certain they’ll have them with them during an incident.
And if your employees manage to get home with all the tools they need, you can’t be sure they have cellular or internet access or that the connections are good enough to transfer data needed to get a job done.
You also have to consider security measures for your employees’ home or remote networks. If an employee connects to an unsecured WIFI network, your data and information may be exposed to cyber threats.
The power of power
Most fully-charged laptops won’t last a full workday, so if the power (or internet) isn’t on where your employees are, many won’t be able to get their jobs done.
Or, even if there is power, you’re taking a gamble they actually remembered to bring a charging cable home with them. How many times have you frantically searched for a power cord somewhere only to come up short?
No or limited access to your network
Let’s say in a perfect world, your employees are safely at home. They remembered to bring their devices and chargers. Those devices work great. They have power and secure internet. But can they access your network?
While a few employees may be able to complete some work directly from a laptop or computer, most will need access to your systems to complete their tasks.
Here are a few extra points to consider:
- Do these employees need VPN access?
- Do you have enough licenses for everyone who needs to log in?
- Do your employees know how to connect?
- Do they know whom to contact if they have issues?
- For those who need access to files and systems, do they have an appropriate access level?
- Do your employees know how to handle potential sensitive or protected information they may access while off-site?
- Can your network handle an unusually high volume of simultaneous traffic created by employees working remotely during a disruption?
No clear understanding of event type
Here’s example of a disruptive event, but does it qualify as a work-from-home incident?
There’s little snow on the ground. The roads could be a little better, but after reviewing with your leadership team, you decide to open your office as usual.
That same morning, your employee looks outside and sees an un-shoveled driveway and sloppy roads. The employee doesn’t want to drive in this, and it looks like a disruptive event, so the employee decides it’s probably OK to work from home.
Your work-from-home emergency contingency plan should clearly define what a “disruptive” event is. You should also have a plan about how you’ll communicate that to your employees so they know if they can or should work from home.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve already worked with your human resources teams to specify how work hours are affected by disruptions, including clarification about full workdays, partial work days, and the use of vacation time or paid time off. You should communicate this clearly and often to your employees.
Even if you have a well-planned communication strategy with a carefully executed emergency notification system (ENS), communicating with remote employees during an incident is challenging.
While you may use your ENS to communicate key information outwardly about an incident and expectations, do you have an effective communication strategy that facilitates two-way communication with team members?
In a disruption, these communication channels shouldn’t just be about the event at hand, but should also include ways employees can quickly and effectively communicate with managers, technical support teams, and others to work through any roadblocks or issues they encounter while working remotely.
Plan and Practice
If you think you can mitigate challenges of working from home during a crisis and you choose to include it as a contingency in your BC and DR plans, don’t forget to also include it in routine BC and DR exercises.
Lack of preparation can prevent your plans from working as you anticipate, so plan a testing day where mission-critical employees work off-site (this could even be a spontaneous exercise) and see what troubles they encounter. Address those issues before a crisis occurs.
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